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California Bullet Train - An Omen of Taxes to Come?

by Scott Donald, Irvine, April 2018

 

Ten years ago, California voters approved spending $9 billion in bonds to construct the nation's first bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Since then, the cost has dramatically escalated and the opening date has been repeatedly delayed.

 

Analysts question how the project will ultimately be funded and if the project is an omen of higher taxes to come.

 

Beleaguered Project

 

The major problems in moving forward with the bullet train are twofold:

 

1.   The difficulty of building tracks through mountain passes, and
2.   Cost overruns, which have pushed the projected cost to $77 billion.

 

While $77 billion is the baseline cost estimate, total costs could be as high as $98.1 billion.

 

How to pay for the entire project remains "uncertain," according to chief executive Brian Kelly. The state has spent $2.5 billion in federal stimulus money and has an additional $930 million in federal money available. That's on top of the bond money from voters.

 

The Vision

 

The California High-Speed Rail Authority presented its Draft 2018 Business Plan, positioning the bullet train as a solution to California’s housing affordability crisis.

 

The business plan points out that a one-hour train trip between the Silicon Valley and the Central Valley would “enable people to work at high-tech jobs while having access to more affordable housing options in cities such as Gilroy, Merced and Fresno.” The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is nearly $4,200, while in Kings County it’s currently less than $900.

 

With the release of the draft business plan, the Authority is now seeking input as part of a 60-day public comment period that closes May 7, 2018. An online comment form is available at this link.